Code Blue

A couple of night’s ago Sir Duke Barkington woke us up by barking and running wild through the house. I assumed that we had an intruder who was skilled enough to bypass the ADT system and was there to murder us all. As one does. But it turns out that he was alerting us to something outside. Jerimiah went downstairs and that’s when he saw the red and blue lights streaming through the window. He peeked out and saw two ambulance and a patrol car parked across the street. He wasn’t sure if they were going to our neighbor Ginger’s house or Mr. Charlie and Ms. Loretta’s, so he watched for a bit longer and noticed a stretcher being pulled into Mr. Charlie and Ms. Loretta’s.

He came upstairs and told me what he saw. I jumped up and ran to my office window for a better view and I too saw the lights There had been no sirens. Duke was alerted only by the lights streaming through the window.

I took note that the medics did not seem to be in a hurry, and that a couple were just standing around talking. The cruiser switched his lights to just show blue, which brought to mind a code blue, which brought to mind the time I was a “Code Blue.”

When I was giving birth to Lydia she slipped out of my body unexpectedly. The doctor had not been prepared, just came to check on me. She had nothing, no gloves, no help, so she reached, with one hand on my daughter’s small frame, toward a button on the wall. Suddenly a “Code Blue” was issued to the whole labor and delivery floor, and half a dozen nurses and doctors ran into my room.

It’s been two days. I never saw who was wheeled out, and I also have not seen Mr. Charlie out in his yard. There’s been no mowing. No pulling figs off the tree. No open garage where his American flag hangs proudly next to his Haitian flag. I haven’t seen Ms. Loretta either. Just a car, which we think belongs to one of their children, a couple of times in and out, and a small light on in the kitchen.

I hope you are okay, Mr. Charlie and Ms. Loretta. Until I see you both again, I’ll be keeping an eye out.

M.

Coming Home Again

We got to Table Rock Lake Saturday night, just before dinner time. Well, our family’s dinner time, nearly 8:30 pm. We were welcomed by my mother-in-law, her husband Tom, her brother (Uncle Jim), and some big, juicy homemade cheeseburgers. We didn’t mean to get here so late, but the eleven-hour drive turned out to be a 13-hour drive, with two stops for a vomiting puppy, a long walk to stretch our legs at Elvis’ Birthplace, and three or four potty breaks. It was worth it though, as soon as we hit the familiar roll of the Ozark Mountains, we smiled our relief.

It’s been so long since we have been away from our house, I thought I’d be a little sad. Homesick, even. But no, turns out I was just homesick for this place, as the flicker of the lightening bugs on the freshly cut field and the starry sky soon reminded me. I’ve been away for so long, that I’ve forgotten how the stars look way out here, away from the bustle, away from the lights, and the sirens, and the stress of the city. You never know about going home. It can be nice, it can be tough, I’m usually ambivalent at best, but not this time. Not in the state we find ourselves. Things smell and feel different.

I hope you are all well today, and you are taking care of yourself and each other. But most importantly, I hope you get to go home again sometime soon.

❤️

M.

Shower Shaver

I’m a shower shaver. Always have been. I remember learning to shave my legs in a tub of luke-warm water, after years of being tormented about my long, black leg hair by my sister, while my mother refused to let me near a razor. I was in fifth grade when I eventually stole my mom’s razor, sat in a tub for much longer than I should have and contemplated it. Then I just did it. My mom got mad. My sister laughed. I was bleeding from knee to ankle, but I was proud, so proud of my smooth legs. Now I wish I had never picked up a razor.

Shaving my legs, tweezing my eyebrows, waxing my mustache, Jesus, I’m so over all of it. I wish I was so body positive that I could stand proudly and say, Fuck you, World! While I flip the world the bird, and my mustache blows in the wind like Tom Selleck’s. But alas, I succumb to societal beauty standards, well some of them, like waxing, shaving, plucking, and zapping unwanted hair. Bleh.

The day we signed the papers on our current home my vision was clouded by the master bathroom. It’s beautiful. Small, but mighty. There’s only one small vanity and a toilet, but there is this wonderful shower! It is all glass, with stone floors (the bathroom itself has heated floors), and artful tile work throughout. It is floor to ceiling and has all the fancy accouterments that a shower should have. And it’s huge! It easily fits Jerimiah and me. Or Duke and Jackson and me, when we are in swimsuits trying to scrub mud from Duke’s legs while he attempts to run through the small opening that we leave in the door to let the smell of wet dog escape. It’s perfect.

But the first time I took a shower in it I realized there was nowhere for this shower-shaver to stick her legs when I shaved. It needed a bench. So I did what anyone would do, I hopped out of the shower, threw clothes on, ran to Homegoods, and bought a bamboo shower bench. Perfect. Except, well, today was the first time since I owned the bamboo bench the I actually sat on it to shave my legs.

Listen, I’m a creature of habit. Years and years of awkwardly standing in the tub, with my leg perched on the edge has made me think this is the only way. So the first time I shaved my legs with my bamboo bench in place, I just stuck my leg up on the bench and shaved standing up like usual. Then I kept doing it.

Don’t get me wrong, I use the bench. I sit on it regularly while the hot water from my raindrop faucet drips onto my head and I think about the world. I cry on my bamboo bench. A lot. Y’all know I’m a shower cryer, I don’t have time to defend that. I cried on that bamboo shower bench the first week we lived here because I missed Charlotte and I didn’t want to live in Georgia. I cried that summer when my son was sad that we didn’t have any friends yet. I cried when my friend called with bad news about her parents. I sat on the bamboo bench and cried when that student opened fire on the UNC Charlotte campus. When they couldn’t find that little boy with autism for days. I cried on that bamboo bench when I thought we were going to be transferred to New Orleans. I cried when my son cried when a friend was being bullied at school and he realized he needed to stick up for her. I cried when the spring tornadoes sprang up the Midwest, when we had to cancel our trip home because Covid-19 was here. I cried for Ahmaud Arbery, for my state, for our country, for this world.

But today, for the first time in a year, I sat on that bamboo bench and I shaved my legs. I let the water fall on me. I didn’t cry. I just sat and shaved. I wondered about all the times I should have done this before. All the times I let my own stubbornness stop me from doing things. My own stubbornness, my own ignorance, my own self-doubt. I thought about shower-shavers. I thought about women who wish they had clean water. I thought about women who refuse to shave their legs and under arms. I thought about little girls with no mother to teach her how to do it. I thought about the good I have learned by others, but society, by my environment, and my world. And then I thought about the bad. But I didn’t cry, I just shaved my legs.

M.

Lagniappe

We met a man last summer in Coastal Louisiana who was raised on the bayou. He used to hunt for and collect alligator eggs as a child, then hatch them and raise them in his bathtub until they got too big, then he and his brothers would take them back out to the swamp and drop them near where they found them. He spoke Louisiana-French, a creole language spoken across ethnic and racial lines, by people who consider themselves to be Cajun or Louisiana Creole, as well as Chitimacha, Houma, Biloxi, Tunica, Choctaw, Acadian, and/or French. Creole is the type of language they speak, but Cajun is derived from that. There is always a dominate language with pidgin languages known as the superstrate language, while the lesser is the substrate. In the case of the Cajun there is English, then French, then African, Spanish, and Native American. When it all converges in one person, the result can be wonderful and confusing. He told us how to “pinch the tail and suck the head,” showed us places we had never seen before, and explained that Lagniappe just means getting a little something extra than you paid for.

He would speak to the alligators primarily in French, then speak to us in English, then speak to his friend in Creole. He would codeswitch from one being to another, never skipping a beat, never missing an opportunity to tell his story to whomever would listen. Always with an eye on the alligator.

The man was our tour guide on the Atchafalaya River Basin, a combination of wetlands and river delta where the Atchafalaya and the Gulf of Mexico converge. The basin contains 70% forest habitat, and 30% open water. As far as wetland river basins go, it’s almost stable. It’s the largest contiguous block of forested wetlands left in the lower Mississippi River Valley, and the largest block of floodplain forest in the United States, with 260,000 acres of cypress-tupelo. It’s iconic, and terrifying, and a little bit surreal.

Soaring over the Atchafalaya Swamp we watched a baby and momma Osprey spread their wings from the top of a hollowed cypress. We saw a 12-foot alligator lead his blind friend to food. We overheard the story of the Louisiana Black Bear, and the floods, and the inoperable South Farm, and the ATV-traffic that threatens many of the existence there. We saw beaver dams, and otter running for their lives. We felt the slap of an alligator tail against the oiled metal of the boat. For the first time in my five years in The South, I let it grip me. Take ahold of my head and my heart. It was something I didn’t expect to happen, but something I am glad did. Like when you get an extra donut in the box.

M.

Life Carries On

I’m wide awake at 5:00 am on a Saturday, staring at the crack in the curtain as moonlight, streetlight, and a small sliver of day stream in. I’m awake because I heard footsteps in the hallway. Our house is old. Creaky. Drafty, sometimes. The squeaks were from Jerimiah, who heard our puppy vomiting in the hallway and went to her rescue. He cleaned up the vomit, soothed her jittery nerves, and now they are both asleep again next to me. Why she vomited I can’t be sure. She had her last round of puppy shots. She maybe ate her dinner too fast. She maybe ate another random stick in the yard. Puppies vomit. Life carries on.

I can’t get back to sleep tonight. Today. This morning. I’m thinking about that time, 1998, maybe ‘99, when I was standing in line at the cell phone store. Remember the cell phone store? Not Verizon, or Best Buy. This was a smaller store, where you could buy prepaid flip phones, or pay your AT&T bill, still buy a pager? That store. They were usually in a failing mall, or shopping strip, next to an anchor store like JC Penny or Radio Shack. They had names like Clear Choice Cellular or Cellular One. You had a Motorola Star-tac, or maybe a Nokia with a small yellowed screen. You played a game with a long snake that would maze around in different directions, eating food, while it grew, and grew, and grew. The game was dumb. It was dumb and it was addictive and did it have a name? Maybe it was just called Snake. Just, Snake.

I’m thinking about this time I was standing inside this store and I was waiting, and waiting, and waiting to pay my cell phone bill. It was hot outside, I was in flip flops, it was hot inside the crowded, little store, across from ACE Hardware, next to the movie theater and the arcade that folded a couple years later. I was still in high school. Still learning how the world worked. I had a wad of cash in my hand. Maybe $70. Cell phone bills were expensive back then. But I had a job. I worked the “10 Items or Less” register at Food-4-Less. On the lucky days.

There were a couple women working two different counters. It was all very hectic in there. People were forming a line to pay their bills, people were forming a different line to purchase a phone, a process back then as complicated as buying a car. Long, arduous, taxing. There was another line to look at cases, another to pay their landline bill, buy phone cards to call their families in countries I’d never heard of, let alone visited. Not then. Not that day.

The line was moving. The woman in front of me was motioned to a desk. I was up next. I nervously moved my toes up and down in my flip flops. Someone was waiting in an idling car outside for me. My mom, or my sister, or my best friend. I was keenly aware that I was keeping someone from getting somewhere they needed to be. I was hot. I was sweating in my Walmart flip flops, I was next to be called.

The chime on the door jingled, and the line turned to look. A young man walked in, looked at the line exasperated, and walked inside the store. The line looked back toward the women at the desks. One of them tiredly said, “Come on, whoever’s next.” I started toward her when the man that had just walked in raced past me and got to her desk before I did. I stopped dead in my tracks. I looked around in disbelief. I looked back at the line behind me. They looked at me with searing eyes. Why did I let him cut in line? Why didn’t I say something? What could I have done? Anger. Pity. I stepped back to my spot in line and sank into myself a bit. He finished up his business, then turned to leave. He smiled at us as he walked by. Smirked really. He was no dummy. He wouldn’t wait in line. The woman at the counter motioned me over.

I sank into myself a bit that day and I never fully came back up. I don’t know why. And I don’t know how. I just did. And sometimes when I can’t sleep, when it’s 5:00 am on a Saturday, and my puppy has vomited, and the light from the moon and the sun streams into the cracks of my window I think about that day. About that man. About what nearly-40 Missy would like to say to him. To the line. To the women at the counters. To the little, dumb Missy who sank into herself. And I just can’t sleep.

Hope you’re sleeping peacefully this morning.

M.

Involuntary Autobiographical Memory #9

We’ve talked before about Involuntary Autobiographical Memories (IAMs). I’ve told you about how these random memories surface in my mind when I’m doing something that doesn’t require my mind in any way. Then, if I don’t talk about them, or write about them, they keep recurring for a few days. It’s bizarre, and definitely a mental health question, but not all that uncommon. Though I suspect some of us are more susceptible to it, I often wonder if you have to let the memories in. Like does it happen to me more because I tend to sit in a quiet room, with Adele playing in the background, stare out the window, and just think? Or is this because I once invited the memories in and now they just flood me all the time? Does it happen to all of us and some of us just “shoo” the memories away? Sometimes the memories are bad, but mostly they are odd, with characters from my life that I would like to forget, but just seem to hang on. Okay, having said all that, today while I was switching the laundry I randomly remembered our old neighbor Frank.

When I was pregnant with Jackson, Jerimiah and I moved to Branson, Missouri. We were living on Table Rock Lake, which is about 30 minutes from Branson proper, but we were both working in Branson, and we were both going to school in Springfield (Missouri State–Go Bears!) so it made sense to not only move to “town” as it were, because it was close to our jobs, close to the only hospital in a 40-mile radius, and closer to school. Jerimiah’s parents wanted us to buy a house, but truth be told we knew we weren’t made for a life in Branson. It was a stopping point for us, so we rented an adorable little bungalow in a historic part of Downtown, a couple blocks from “The Strip” and walking distance to all our favorite restaurants, bars (not that that mattered anymore), and the aforementioned hospital. I was six months pregnant when we moved in, and the house was so small that when we passed in the hallway my belly pushed Jerimiah out of the way. It was wonderful, and adorable, and super cute. The perfect little place.

The neighborhood was older, well established, and going through a revitalization of sorts. The woman we rented from had bought the bungalow, stripped it to the studs, and renovated it. It was charming, all the way down to it’s original hardwood and super-pimp kitchen. The same was happening to a couple other houses on the street, and some houses were in disrepair, waiting to be snatched up and reno’d (this was at the peak of HGTV in our house and a couple times we thought about snatching up one of those $40,000 houses and doing the same thing, but I always talked us out of it. Remember, no forever homes quit yet.)

Across the street we had a small family, next door was Russ and his odd wife, who would sometimes ride with her head down in the car like she was a wanted person, and diagonally from us was Virgil. Virgil was a 92-year-old man living in the house he built in his 40s. It was a lovely house, and secretly, if I were to buy a house on that street, it would be Virgil’s. We took Jackson over for Halloween only weeks after he was born and Virgil invited us in. He was bent, with a cane and suspenders that had to have been from the 70s, and the biggest, brightest smile. He made us sit on his 1980-something sofa, and eat mints from his candy dish. He wouldn’t hold Jackson, but stood next to me and made faces at him and smiled. He recounted his own children, now gone, and all his grandkids and great-grandkids. We adored Virgil, and from then on always looked out for him, walked Jackson over to say hi, and talk about what was happening in the hood. He was the neighborhood’s official “Nice old man.”

Then one day, while Jackson crawled around Virgil’s deck (which was painted blue to match his house and had blue indoor/outdoor carpet on top of the wood) Virgil and I stood and talked to the mailman. It was this day that Virgil dropped the bomb. His son was coming from Washington to get him. His house was officially sold. Things were changing and although he was nervous, he was also excited to be with his kids and grandkids again. Virgil had been widowed in the 1990s and lived alone in that house since. I was sad for him, but happy at the same time. I inquired about his house and he said his son had already sold it to a friend’s dad. It was all very quick, and it hadn’t even hit the market. I smiled and nodded, I figured another Virgil would be moving in and I was good with that. Later that week we said our goodbyes to Virgil, as his son pulled up with a small U-haul. Seems he left most of his furniture to the new owner. And that was that. No more Virgil. And for a few weeks, no movement at the little blue house on the corner.

It was a Sunday morning. I remember because Jerimiah and I were both at home. It was just after I had quit my job to stay home with Jackson full-time, so we finally had our weekends back, though sometimes Jerimiah would pick up a bartending shift on Saturday to make ends meet. But we were all in bed together, a cranky, teething Jackson between us, Jerimiah was snoring loudly, and I was preoccupied by an unusual noise outside. I slowly got up as to not wake anyone, and walked over to the large windows in our incredibly small bedroom, and peeked out. I was met with a sight. An old, large camper was parked between our house and the empty one next door that was being renovated. There was an alley that separated our houses, and the camper was blocking the alley. I was just sitting there, idling. It’s loud muffler roaring, and something was banging. The door to the camper was open, but I couldn’t see anyone. There was an extension cord coming from the inside, and it was running alongside the camper, then out of my view. I kept looking down the alley toward Mary’s house, the family whose backyard backed up to ours. They used the alley quite a bit, and I wondered if this camper somehow belonged to them.

Jerimiah woke up and asked what was happening and I explained the situation. A camper? An extension cord? He had questions. He crept out of bed to join me at the windows and we watched, for what was so long that at one point he went to the bathroom and started the coffee, and came back. At some point Jackson woke up, and we all went into the living room to get a better view. Bentley our overweight chocolate lab was asleep in the dark living room. When we opened the blinds Bentley lost her shit, wanted to know what the hell that camper was doing, wanted us to take her outside. I obliged, because this camper had piqued my curiosity. Jerimiah and Jackson had already moved on to breakfast, but I was hooked. I leashed up Bentley, threw some flip-flops on, and we headed out the front door. Be careful, Jerimiah told me, holding a bouncing Jackson and pulling pancake mix out. I nodded.

Outside Bentley calmed down, when there wasn’t an apparent human with the camper. She sniffed around the edge of our yard. I was too nervous to walk into the alley. Then suddenly a man jumped out of the camper and yelled something toward us. Bentley flipped out, and I pulled her closer to me, which was always harder than it seemed since she was usually using 110 pounds. He started toward us. Bentley was hackled up, and at this point Jerimiah had noticed. He put Jackson in his walker in the living room and walked out onto the porch.

The man was stumbling, obviously drunk, and very loud. Maybe to talk over the camper’s noises, but Bentley did not like him, and as he walked toward us I was a little scared too. He stopped short of our yard, Bentley barking and nipping toward him. “Is that a damn bear?!” He yelled, pointing at Bentley. Rude, we both thought. I mean, she was a sturdy girl, but a bear? Come on, man. I managed a smile, Jerimiah asked if the man needed anything.

Nope, he just wanted to introduce himself. He was Frank, our new neighbor. He pointed toward Virgil’s house. I was agitated at this point, and asked why his camper was here (motioning toward the alleyway), then he started saying something about this being America and he could park his RV whenever he pleased. That was just the beginning.

It didn’t take long to see that Frank was suffering from mental illness. I tried to be as nice as I could, but when I finally broke down and called the police on him he lost it. One day Jackson and I came home from the park. We had walked, him in his stroller, and I turned the corner to head up our street and immediately noticed that same extension cord from the RV. But this time it was coming from the screen door of Frank’s house. It crossed the street and was plugged into an outdoor outlet at Russ’ house, our neighbor. I was furious. At this point we had several run-ins with Frank, including him day drinking and walking up and down the street screaming about the military and President Obama (he was a conspiracy theorist and one heck of a racist). So I called the police.

It was a nice day and my windows were open so I heard the entire incident. They came over, asked him why the extension cord appeared to be plugged into the neighbor’s house, and explained at length why this was dangerous and also illegal. He spat at them, cursed them, and was very close to being arrested, when he finally unplugged the cord and went inside. The police left. All night he stood on his porch and yelled at our house. I was at my wits end.

We only lived at that house for a few more months, it was all too much. I called the police on him a couple more times, and once he did get arrested. The day we moved he had hoisted a very large sign in his front yard to announce his bid for Mayor. I just shook my head. He seemed to be the epitome of a man let down by the system. It turns out Frank was a Veteran, like Russ had been, but he suffered from PTSD and a myriad of other health problems, and was unable to get the care he needed at the VA. It was sad, and scary, and I wish there had been a better way for me to have handled the situation back then. But I was young and green, and this was my first go round with someone like Frank.

The truth of the matter is, we’ve had other odd neighbors. Other people who have made us scratch our head, call the police, and even try to befriend to just understand them more. But Frank was beyond my help. And to this day I think of him. Wonder if he’s okay. And wish him comfort.

I think of Virgil too. And that little blue house on the corner. I think of the early days. I cherish a lot of memories from that house, those streets, but Frank. Ah, sometimes there are things we’d like to forget, but just can’t. I guess there’s a reason.

Wishing you rest today, Frank. Wherever you are.

M.

City Living

I’ve always been partial to living in the city. So close that I can feel the heartbeat of the place. I never knew why. I was born and raised in a small town in Kansas. At least that’s what I tell people, but since I’ve left Leavenworth I’ve realized how much it wasn’t a “normal” small town, like other places I have lived since. Or like the place my husband grew up, or friends who tell me stories about the same 25 kids they went from elementary through high school with. When I was growing up in Leavenworth I felt stifled. But I’m learning it was more about my fear of never breaking the poverty cycle. Of never striking out to other places, meeting new faces, tacking chances. I didn’t want to fall in a rut, stay put, never grow as a person.

But Leavenworth itself wasn’t too bad of a place to grow up in. There was plenty of diversity and culture (for Kansas anyway) and it was a short 20 miles to Kansas City (Missouri or Kansas, take your pick). It had museums (if you took the time to find them), multiple elementary, middle, and high schools. Private and public. It had Fort Leavenworth, the Federal Penitentiary, and we were a cool 20-minute drive the other way to the University of Kansas. It was actually an okay place.

And because my mother rarely had a car when I was very young, we walked a lot of places. Which meant we were always near the places we needed to get to with regularity. The bank, the grocery store, the hospital (just in case) and my school. Which also means we were usually in the heart of the city. In fact, one of the coolest places we ever lived (in my opinion) was in this large house half a block from the main artery in Leavenworth, Highway 7, aka 4th Street. Here I am, standing in the front yard in an awesome bathing suit (probably had me a kick-ass Slip ‘n Slide).

I think I’ve shared this pic before, but for a different reason. Trying to figure out who that truck belonged to (I’m pretty sure it was my sister’s friend Shane) and how/why we had a Polaroid camera. Might have been Shane’s too, as she was obviously very rich with a vehicle and what not.

The house sat diagonally, as you can see, from Burger King. It also shared an alley with Kentucky Fried Chicken, where my sister worked in high school, and Taco Johns was just across the street. Why yes, I do have a weight problem, but no, I have no idea why. Also, that BK had the most KICK-ASS play place, with a ball pit! A Ball Pit! Outside! I mean yeah, it makes me shake with nervousness just thinking about it now, and I’m compulsively dowsing hand sani all over my body, but it was pretty awesome in 1987. And I’m pretty sure my mom would scrape change together on nice afternoons, enough to buy a Diet Coke, and we’d walk over, and she’d sit and sip Diet Coke while I played all afternoon in the ball pit with whatever random kids happened over. So it was sort of like my own personal jungle gym. Cool. Maybe that’s why my pain threshold is so high?

McDonalds had the only indoor play place, with one of those really cool slides and that Hamburgler-Jail thing. So when it was cold, she’d scrounge up enough change for a cup of coffee and a Happy Meal, and we’d walk the extra half mile to McDonalds to play.

I’ve spun off topic. Imagine that.

I lived in the heart of the city. That’s my point, but I’ve lived in the country too. And fallen asleep to the sound of the lake, or the sound of the frogs chirping, or the crickets singing, or the Meth heads next door out at three am looking for their horse that got loose (true story). The country is nice, for awhile, but it just isn’t my thing.

I like the bustle of the city. The ease of public transportation. The events that are always happening. The people to watch. I like the way that, if I fall asleep with my windows open on a cool, crisp spring night here in the Atlanta metro, I can be lulled to sleep by the train, or the ambulance sirens speeding to the Perimeter. It’s not the Burger King play place, but it will rightly do.

Enjoy wherever your home is right now. Just make sure to stay there until it’s safe to go out again.

M.

Disney World, Part Two

When I left you, we were making our way to Cinderella’s Castle in an old-timey car that you can catch a ride in if you are up early and committed. And that’s what we were. After all, this wasn’t just Jackson’s first time at Disney World, this was Jerimiah’s first time and mine as well. We didn’t have childhood that afforded us a special trip like this, so we knew, even though we only had three days, we were going to make the most of it. And that’s exactly what we did. As a recap, we bought a package deal with Disney, which I highly recommend, because it comes with perks. We also added the “Photo Package” to our deal, because you know how I like pictures. Which I also recommend because it totally freed me up from ever having to take pictures. With the photo package, you just find a photographer, and there are a ton of them, scan your Magic Bracelet, and ask them to take your picture. They have all sorts of cool shots to do, and every night you can download all your pictures. I have over 500 pictures from our three days at Disney, and I took about 30 of them. The rest were awesome ones like these:

That right there, that’s Cinderella’s Castle, the most magical of places. This was early on during day two of our trip and we had big plans. Huge! First stop was the castle.

Those yellow buttons we had on said “This is My First Time!” and we all wore them proudly. And see how we are all in sneakers, that’s your best bet. Because the first day we walked 15 miles. The second day, well, we walked even more. And rode the shuttle bus. And hopped on the monorail. So yeah.

Even thought it was the first week of January, it’s Florida, so it was just light jacket weather. The highs were in the fifties, the lows in the 40s, but all the hotel pools are heated, so no worries there. Though to be honest, we didn’t swim. Not once. We left each morning and headed to a park, and got back to our room so late and exhausted each night we passed out before we could turn the lights off. Well, they did. I stayed awake and looked at all our cool pictures of the day.

At Magic Kingdom we spent the whole day doing all the things! We met Alice (my one wish) and the Mad Hatter after we rode the Tea Cups. We rode every ride we came across. We met every character we saw. We even saw one of the day parades and visited the Hall of Presidents. But after all that Jackson still insisted we go back to Epcot. He REALLY loved Epcot. So after a bite to eat for dinner at one of the casual places at Magic Kingdom we headed back to Epcot to close that bitch down on our second night. Here are more pics from the second day, including my favorite of us, the one on Splash Mountain. It’s such a metaphor for this trip, and for how we live our lives. Everyone else was covered and cowered. We were free with our hands up screaming our minds out. Cause that’s how you do things. 🙂

Enjoy the other pics from day two, and I’ll meet you tomorrow for our last day at Disney World.

Thanks for reading.

M.

Disney World, Part One

As recently as two weeks ago we were planning a trip to Florida for Spring Break. It seems crazy now, but we had already booked our hotel in Tampa. We had already asked Jackson which park he would visit if he could visit any, and he yelled, “Epcot!” In fact he passed up Legoland and Magic Kingdom for it. (Universal was not on the table because we haven’t finished Harry Potter yet.) Now all our plans are cancelled, but for a little while we were excited to go to Disney again. We haven’t been in years. Which got me to thinking that I wasn’t blogging back when we first took Jackson to Disney World, so I thought I’d share now. So this is a three-part series of pics and stories from our first trip to Disney in 2016, when Jackson was a first grader. It’s part posterity, part “Look people used to have happy days!” I hope you enjoy. And if Disney is not your thing, just come back in four days.

Now before I dive in here, which is mainly just pics with our favorite character, let’s get real first. I know there are people who do not like Disney, and I get the reasons. You hate people. You don’t like crowds. You can’t get over the cost. You’ve heard horror stories. You’ve been once, and then swore it off ever again because you saw a kid vomit, or a piece of trash on the ground, or the pool was too warm. Whatever the reason, leave that shit at the door with me because I LOVE Disney! Still, to this day, it was one of our best vacations. And sure, it was because we were all allowed to be kids all day, every day, and live out our fantasy of meeting these beloved characters, but so what? We should all be kids sometimes.

We decided to surprise Jackson with Disney, which was of course, a blast. We told him we were going to the beach in Florida. Of which we did. We woke up one snowy January morning (the slowest week at Disney, cause I ain’t no fool) and we headed down to Florida. We drove nonstop from Charlotte to Daytona Beach. We made the drive in about seven hours, and set to exploring. That day we were able to jump in the ocean and visit the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, which really is a sight to behold. We walked to the top of it, how many stairs, I don’t know, a million? And we were rewarded with marvelous views.

When we got back to our hotel we started asking Jackson what he wanted to do the next day. He said play on the beach, and we were like cool, cool, but here, open this surprise we got for you. We gave him a bag filled with Disney toys and apparel for the next three days. He was opening his gifts, getting more and more excited, then we asked him if he saw a theme. He yelled, “Disney!” And we were like what do you think that means? And he was all, “You know I love Disney!” Ha. He wasn’t getting it. So we said, “We’re going to Disney tomorrow!” And then he threw himself back on the bed in exasperation.

The next day we left Daytona bright and early and were in Orlando in no time. We checked into our hotel, one of the less expensive ones on the Disney property. We chose to go this route because you get extended hours to all the parks, and other perks, like a shuttle ride to the park. Plus, the package deals save you the most money and well, we are savvy shoppers. We ended up in a “Little Mermaid” room, which was ready and waiting for us super early that morning.

I will say this like 800 more times, but Disney has their shit together, y’all. We got to the hotel, checked in, threw out bags in our room, loaded up our backpacks with food (you can bring outside snacks into the park to save on food) and headed to Animal Kingdom. This first picture was of the second morning. Right as we were about to head out for the day, Jackson noticed this dragonfly by our room door. It was the most chill dragon fly. It never moved while we were standing there watching it. I even thought for a split second it was fake. Like Disney had planted it there to make us go “Ohhhh” and “Ahhh” which at this point was something I could see them doing. But it was gone when we got back, so probably not.

I had read all the reviews of all the parks leading up to this trip, and I knew that Animal Kingdom would be the least exciting for our family. We aren’t too fond of zoos. Mainly the whole animals in cages thing, but I knew we had to experience it once, so we decided to knock it out the first day. We had also bought the park hopper tickets, which means that we could visit multiple parks in one day. So we knew we would start our day at Animal Kingdom and end it at somewhere else. Where we hadn’t decided yet. But we were ready for some excitement.

Animal Kingdom, though our least favorite park, did not disappoint! Even a giant zoo was magical at Disney, but Jackson’s favorite part was the roller coaster, Expedition Everest, and meeting Chip and Dale, who brought our attention to the fact that like Dale, Jackson was also missing teeth.

We also got to meet the cast of The Jungle Book at Animal Kingdom and others, while we followed a scouting adventure around all the islands of the park:

By the time the park was ready to close (it closes early on account of taking care of the animals) we knew where we were headed, the park Jackson was the most pumped about, EPCOT! Epcot did not disappoint. It was awesome! Futuristic and technologically driven, just the sort of place our kid likes. Plus, we got there just in time to meet some very cool people. The coolest in fact.

Epcot was epic! There is Mission to Mars, which actually scared the actual shit out of me and I refuse to ever ride again. There is Test Track, where you can design your own car then drive it on “the track.” Coolest thing ever to our gear head.

Then there was the Coca-cola tasting room. The chance (as you can see) to meet Baymax, and fireworks, great food (from all over the world), and a Finding Nemo encounter where Jackson got to meet and talk with the sea turtles. Epcot was also the place that we first caught a glimpse of the Monorail and it had a giant theater that played all the old school Mickey Mouse cartoons like Steamboat Willie. It was a 4-D theater, and we had an awesome time watching the characters come to life right before our eyes. It was by far Jackson’s best, most favorite park, and when we discuss going back to Disney he only talks about Epcot. It is also where Jackson got his Mickey ears and his Test Track “Driver’s License” that he was so proud of. In short, Epcot=Epic. Most epic.

When we got back that night to our hotel room we were actually, 100% beat. We all passed out pretty quickly after walking more than 15 miles that day. But we were up and at ’em the next morning at 7 am, because we heard that if you are one of the first inside Magic Kingdom you can hop a ride in an old car to Cinderella’s Castle. I wasn’t super sure if it was true or not, but we decided to take the chance and it just so happened that it was an “early morning” for those staying at a Disney property. Which means one of those perks I mentioned earlier came in handy and we were one of the first in the doors and check this out:

Yep! We got to ride an old-time car to Cinderella’s Castle. I guess this is a lesser-known secret. As we passed down Main Street, the driver was giving us a tour and honking at people. We were like royalty. People thought we were VIPs. Nope. Just savvy shoppers.

I think this might be a good spot to end in for today. I’m tired just writing about all that we accomplished. Tomorrow, Magic Kingdom!

Thanks for reading!

M.

Private Lives

It’s fun to imagine what happens in the private lives of others. I think that’s one of the most pointed reasons I am who I am today. I spent years in quiet solitude. My nervous energy was too much for my little brain, so I’d opt to sit and watch people while I rocked back and forth on my knees. I’d hide in my closet or my toy box, or in clothes racks while my mother shopped, and I’d just watch the people around me go about their day-to-day lives. At some point I started to wonder what their lives looked like in the quiet of their own home. When they weren’t in public. I started to envision how that woman buying toothpaste brushed her teeth. Did she put the toothpaste on before or after she rinsed her brush? Did she do circular patterns? Did she brush her gums, like I just learned to do? What about her tongue? I guess this might be how writers are made. Hiding. Wondering. Eavesdropping and watching, in secret spaces and places.

I remember when I was about four or five. We lived in a basement apartment in Leavenworth, and there were two large windows near the top of the living room wall. If I stood on the wooden arm of the couch, I could peer out the window, relatively undetected, like a cat who just wants to feel the warmth of the sun. And some days that’s all I’d accomplish. Alternating between an hour of watching people, then an hour of Care Bears, until something exciting happened inside my house, like my sister came home from school or one of our neighbors stopped over to say hello.

The window looked directly into the parking lot of our apartment complex. Which means I could watch people getting in and out of their cars, which was my favorite, because as you might imagine our vehicles are our own little houses. Public, sure, but just private enough to let us sing our favorite song, or practice what we are going to say to the people we are headed to see. I liked to watch the people as they prepared themselves in their cars. Some of the women put their make-up on, using the rear-view mirror as their vanity. Some of them yelled at their kids in the backseat. Some men sat, silent, for long periods of time before they either left for work, or came home from work. My favorite people were the couples. They’d sneak kisses. They’d argue. I couldn’t hear them, just knew from their body language, their red faces, their hand movements, that they were upset. There are a lot of breaks up, and reconciliations, in the parking lots of low-income apartment complexes.

I learned in these long hours, that if you are quiet, if you are still and relatively unseen, you can gain more knowledge about a person than any other way. I learned to sort of fade into the background in those days. A trait that has served me well in my life and in my writing.

But still I wondered what the people did in the privacy of their own homes. I wondered if they had a cat, a cat that would rub itself against their legs as they cooked dinner. I wondered if they prayed before dinner. If they slept without clothes on. If they sometimes wondered about each other. Later in life, as I grew and discovered what really drives people, I wondered if they kissed each other after an argument. If they made love with the lights on. If they had sexual desires they kept secret. I think it’s human nature, to wonder these things.

It’s part of who I am, as a person and as a writer, wondering about the private lives of others. Fantasizing about how others move in the night, when they think no one is watching.

M.

Stay (I Missed You)

I was leaving Patsy’s office yesterday when I hopped in the car, feeling pretty good, a rare occurrence after therapy. I hadn’t cried, or said fuck, or told some long, sordid story about Adele or voodoo, it was a good visit, actually, and switched the channel on the radio to 90s music and “Stay (I Missed You)” came on. You know the 90s pop song by Lisa Loeb? “You say, I only hear what I want to. And you say, I talk so all the time. So.” And just like that I was transported back to my childhood bedroom, with it’s dolphin trinkets, underwater-themed bedspread, and matching curtains. And there, on my dresser, was my radio with the ability to record.

The year was 1994, and I had been waiting for what felt like literal years for one of the pop stations out of Kansas City to play Lisa Loeb and her love song to the guy she desperately missed. Or did he miss her? Or was it all a big misunderstanding? Was he kind of an asshole? Now that I think about it yeah, he was kind of an asshole, but I didn’t get that back then. Back then, I wanted to hear those first few chords, run to my radio and hit the play/record button to get as much as the song as I could onto the mix tape that I was making for my boyfriend who had just moved because his dad was in the Army and life was horribly unfair. We were soulmates.

And then it happened. The DJ said the magic words, “Here’s Lisa Loeb…” and I ran over, hit the buttons and well, it worked. Just. Like. Magic.

The rest of the mix tape had a lot of Wilson Phillips on it, but the second side, first song, was this one and man, I was way serious about him hearing it.

As the song played, and the radio recorded, I danced around my room like I was Lisa Loeb, and I only hear what I want to, and a camera was following me around as I hopped up in down in relative torment with my super cute glasses in a little black dress. It was all too magical. Then I stopped the recording at just the right time. After the last chord, before the DJs annoying voice came back on.

Two weeks later the tape was finished and I sent it to him, all the way across the country in Virginia. Two weeks after that he wrote me and said he liked the tape, but that we should break up. It hurt. A lot. Because I missed him. Then I cried. I slammed my door. I cursed Lisa Loeb while I screamed:

“So I, I turned the radio on/I turned the radio up/And this woman was singing my song/Lovers in love and the other’s run away/Lover is crying ’cause the other won’t stay…”

While my mom banged on my door to keep it down in there.

Yeah. Middle school was fucking harsh. But at least I had Lisa Loeb.

M.

Tornado Season

I’ve been working on a post about the series of tornadoes that broke out when we were living in Missouri between the summer of 2011 and 2012, including the Joplin Tornado, of which my father-in-law’s house was destroyed (he survived), and the Leap Day Tornado that hit our town in 2012. We were living in Branson, Missouri at the time and “The Strip” was hit pretty hard. Jerimiah’s office was destroyed, and he had to work from home for a few months before they found a new office in town, but everyone was okay. Shaken up, but okay. I’ve been working on the post since way back in February because I wanted to post it on Leap Day, because you know, topical and what not. But I couldn’t finish it. I was wading through the pictures I took in Joplin the day after, when Jerimiah and I went to help his dad fish his belongings out of the rubble, and I was so sad looking at those pictures that I was having a hard time writing words to accompany them. I was determined to finish the post this week, then yesterday I woke up to the news in Nashville.

Shit, you guys.

When a tornado season starts out like this, it isn’t good. I’ll just say that. And coming from a Kansas girl, a girl born and raised in The Great Plains, or Tornado Alley, whatever you want to call it, this is some severe, severe weather, and it won’t be going out like a lamb. We need to be prepared. We need to take this seriously. We can’t keep standing in the front yard, drinking our ranch dressing straight from the bottle, saying, “Ope, why’d the wind stop so suddenly?” We need to heed those warnings we all know, but have ignored for so long.

There really is no way for you to combat an F3 like the one in Nashville, which ripped through a heavily-populated part of town, or an F5 like in Joplin. There just isn’t. When it comes, it comes and you just have to hold on and hope you make it out. But the world is certainly more technologically advanced now than it was when I was a kid, and there aren’t many more excuses we can use. Listen to the warnings. Stay indoors. Don’t go out when the sky turns that black and gray color. If the wind suddenly stops and it gets eerily quiet, then it seems like a train comes out of nowhere, it isn’t a damn train, y’all. It’s a twister. Get out of your lawn chair, throw your Bud Light to the wind, and run into your basement. This is serious.

I know this seems like a duh to a lot of you, but the hard truth is, there are places in Tornado Alley where the belief is 100% “It won’t happen here.” In fact, I grew up with that notion. In Leavenworth they think because they are “in a valley” that the tornado won’t come to them. In truth it has been years since a big twister has struck there, and it does seem to strike close to them, all around them, in fact, but when I was a kid it never hit Leavenworth proper. Which meant there were a lot of lawn chair watchers. People making fun of people like my mom and me, who spent many a summer nights camped out in my closet (the most interior space, without windows) with a weather radio and a box of Legos for distraction. That’s the behavior of people who have lived through a twister (of which my mom did as a child). She knows how to take it seriously. But so many don’t, and it scares the shit out of me.

When Jerimiah and I were still dating, way, way back in 2003 a tornado hit Lawrence, Kansas. We were living in Lawrence at the time, and he was working at Blockbuster Video on 27th Street. It was the evening, about 7:00 pm, when I drove some dinner up to him at work. I was working at Best Buy, and had gotten off early and decided to treat him. The weather wasn’t looking great, but then again, it was Kansas, in May. The weather never looks great on warm, May nights in Kansas. That’s the peak of the season. When I walked in, I found him standing in the middle of the store with the District Manager. They were discussing whether or not to close up shop. Apparently a line of storms was headed for us and Blockbusters, if you may recall, were nothing but rows and rows of windows so you could look inside and see the rows and rows of projectiles lining the shelves. Jerimiah was at odds with his manager, who wanted to close. Jerimiah, a born and bred Kansas boy himself, was all “Nah, this will pass.” I mean it’s Lawrence, for fuck’s sake. A half a mile or so from the University of Kansas campus. Mother Nature knows better than to mess with the Jayhawks. Turns out he was wrong, terribly wrong.

About half an hour later the DM, Jerimiah, about three employees, and dumb me who stuck around to see how it would play out, were running toward the Baskin Robbins next door in a wind so hard and fast it took my breath away. Then suddenly it stopped. All was still. The sky was as black as I’d ever seen it, and it was quiet. Eerily quiet. The cars at the busy intersection had all stopped. The wind was gone. The rain and chatter, all silenced. We all stood in our tracks halfway between Blockbuster and Baskin Robbins and looked up toward the sky. Just then the sound came. They say it sounds like a freight train, y’all because IT SOUNDS LIKE A FREIGHT TRAIN. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, this funnel appeared. It was all black, just like the sky, so it was hard to see. I was mesmerized. Then suddenly someone pushed me from behind and yelled, “Run!” So I did.

I spent the next ten minutes in the freezer of the Baskin Robbins with the Blockbuster DM, two Baskin Robbins employees, and the rest of the Blockbuster crew (all of us kids). Jerimiah stood out in the ice cream parlor waiting and watching. It was one of the scariest moments of my life. And you certainly won’t find me in any lawn chair because of it.

The twister did hit campus that night. It also took out several apartment complexes, but to the best of my knowledge no one was killed. Injured, but not killed. It was only an F2, we were lucky. Below is the public info statement from the National Weather Service in Topeka. We were in Douglas County on 27th and Wakarusa.

This is how it happens when it happens. It happens in a lot of places, varying degree of damage and winds. Varying numbers on the Fujita scale. A twister can go from an F0 to an F3 pretty quickly. But some people just don’t respect the catastrophic ability, because when you are from a place where this happens all season long, you become numb to it. Until you aren’t anymore.

I don’t know why I’m sharing this story today. I think I was so messed up in my head when I heard about Nashville yesterday, that it brought up all this other stuff. These old memories, and I wondered if many of you don’t know how tornadoes work, why and when they come, that sort of thing. So I guess I’m trying to inform. To plead with you all to take it seriously. Because you just never know.

As for Nashville and Central Tennessee, I hope everyone is okay. Shaken, I know, but in tact for the most part. As I write this they have confirmed 19 deaths, there may be more to come. There usually is. I’m partial to the City of Nashville, to Central Tennessee. It’s one of our favorite places, and it’s a place that has brought my family and friends and me great joy in our lives. I know they will be okay, eventually, but not without help. Because of this I am adding some links to the bottom for ways you can help.

Maybe one day I will share that Leap Day Tornado story, or talk more about the Joplin tornado, but today just stay safe out there, y’all. And help if you can.

M.

How to Help Nashville Right Now

Hands on Nashville

Middle Tennessee Emergency Response Fund

Ronnie

A few days ago I shared the story of my mom’s friend, Ruthie. She was one heck of a lady and I’m just now beginning to understand how lessons she taught me in my childhood have impacted who I am today. But Ruthie was married for 63 years to Ronnie, and though they were as different as full-flavored Pepsi and Diet Pepsi, they worked in a way that put others in awe. The day I shared about Ruthie (it took me months to write about her) I learned that Ronnie had passed away, and like after Ruth’s passing, the memories of Ronnie came flooding back, one in particular that I needed to share today.

It’s important to know that I didn’t have a father growing up. I have a father, as most of us do, but he was not part of my life. I was the product of a decade-long affair. My father had a wife, and three kids at home, so when I came along he ran scared away from my mother, and by association me. So as a child my idea of a father was loosely based on the other men in my life. On my sisters’ husbands, my Uncle Arthur (whose passing a few years ago still stings too much to deal with) and Ronnie Logan, Ruth’s husband and one of my mom’s closest friends.

Much like Ruth, I came to know Ronnie when he was much older. Ronnie was born in 1932 and I was born in 1981, so he was already an “old man” by the time I was 10 years old. Although 49 isn’t “old” to me anymore, back then it seemed like we were worlds apart. And we would have been, had he not been such a kind, gentle, lovely soul who invested in the people in his family, and for Ronnie his “family” was large. It stretched well beyond his sisters, and wife, and children. It stretched into the community, into his church life, and into my family as well.

When I was 10 years old, my mom and I were at home one early, summer evening and we got a frantic telephone call. I’m not sure who was on the other end. It could have been Ruthie, it could have been Debbie, one of their daughters and one of my mom’s best friends. But someone from the Logan family urgently called to tell my mother that Ronnie had been shot.

Leavenworth is a small town. And Ronnie and Ruth were well-known, though possibly for different reasons. Ronnie owned a drywall business, and he and his sons worked hard everyday hanging drywall, and painting, and doing whatever else they needed to do to get by. They weren’t rich, but any stretch of the imagination, but Ronnie was well-liked and respected in the community. So it came as a shock to hear that Ronnie had been shot by someone, and in the alley behind his own home, which was on the corner of a very busy intersection near downtown Leavenworth.

My mother and I hopped into her 1972 Dodge, and raced over to the house. By the time we got there, Ronnie was already at the hospital, but a few of the Logan clan were handing out in the back yard, discussing what had happened with the police. Ronnie’s truck was still parked, half in the grass, half in the alleyway, and his door was open. I walked as close as I could to the truck, wondering, scared, what Ronnie was going through at that moment. Worried, more than anything, that I would never see him again. There was blood on the bench seat. Tempers were high with the Logans. Emotions palpable. Neighbors were standing in the alley in disbelief in what they had just witnessed. The warm, summer sun was casting streaks of orange and pink down on the house at the corner of Fourth and Pine.

I was just a kid, so I can’t be too sure about the logistics of what had happened, though more was said in front of me than probably should have been said. I remember it was a neighbor who’d shot him. I remember the neighbor was drunked-up, and mad at no one in particular, just drunk and angry and waving a gun around. I remember there was a dog, maybe Ronnie was attacked by the dog first, maybe there was yelling, though it’s hard for me to imagine Ronnie yelling at anyone. I don’t remember the logistics, just the fear. If this could happen to Ronnie, this could happen to anyone in our community.

Ronnie ended up being fine. He was shot in the leg or arm, or some part of him that required very little medical attention, and he was in and then back out of the hospital. The neighbor was released from jail. I don’t know if Ronnie pressed charges, but I know the neighbor moved shortly after. One night, a few weeks later I was sitting on the front porch, listening to Ronnie discuss the incident with a friend, when he said something I never thought I’d hear someone who had just been shot say. He said, “Of course I forgive him.” My mouth went agape. How could you forgive someone who had shot you? I thought maybe I misheard. I went inside and told my mom. She smiled and said, “Well of course Ronnie forgives him. Ruthie, well, that’s another story. Go on outside and play now, no more eavesdropping.” And so I did.

Now here I am, 28 years later, still wondering about the capacity of forgiveness. Wondering how Ronnie was able to do it, and so quickly. Still in awe of the capacity of his humility and his heart. His generosity and his humbleness. Wishing I had inherited that from a man that wasn’t my father, but was the closest thing I ever had to one.

We hear a lot these days about people who have worked hard and made their way in this world, reaching back and helping others along. It’s a noble thing, and there is no nobler a man I can think of from my childhood, than Ronnie Logan. Ronnie was reaching back years ago, pulling up the downtrodden, helping in some small way, whether with a ride to wherever they were going, or a couple bucks for gas. What little Ronnie had, he came by honestly, and he was happy to share. Just as he was happy to share the word of God, always willing to pray for or with you, but always allowing you to come to your own conclusions in the end. 

Ronnie’s steadfast, generous nature gave him another gift we should let his life teach us, the gift of forgiveness. He forgave the people who had wronged him in his life. He forgave the people who didn’t take his advice, the people he had to pick up, time and time again. And most importantly he forgave himself for mistakes that he made, and he learned to make amends. A feat I wish we all had the power to do.

Thank you, Ronnie for teaching me all that you did. I hope that wherever you are now, that you are happy, healthy, and playing the guitar for all those people you’ve helped, loved, and forgiven. Play on! 

Missy

William R. “Ronnie” Logan

Ballerina Confession

When I was about five years old, I desperately wanted to be a ballerina. I watched a cartoon, I can’t recall now, where a little girl was dancing with her dog. She was in a pink tutu and ballet slippers, and she was spinning around and around in a circle. My grandfather was alive at the time and living in our small apartment with us. He was fighting terminal cancer, though I didn’t know what that meant, and he was wheel-chair bound, with one arm already lost to the disease.

He sat, day in and day out, in his wheel chair, or in the big, brown chair in our living room with the wooden arms. He sat and he watched television, whatever was on, though he had his favorites, like Price is Right. My mom would cook breakfast, and lunch, and dinner for my grandpa and me. She would wheel him into the kitchen to eat. She would wheel him into the bathroom, move him from the chair to the toilet. She would bathe him. My sister and my mother would carry him up the flight of stairs from our basement apartment to get fresh air on nice days. I would watch television with him. That was my job.

The day we watched the spinning girl and her loyal dog, I jumped up and pretended to be her. I danced around my grandfather, whose toothless grin gave me the confidence to spin on my toes. He clapped his hands and told me I should be a ballerina. I agreed with a smile.

Then in the spring my grandfather died.

In the summer my neighbor said I was too fat to be a ballerina.

In the fall, we moved to a new house, I started kindergarten, and forgot about my dream.

I’ve done that from time to time. Forgotten about a dream. A goal. I’ve let people tell me what I’m capable of, and what I am not. I’ve been doing it again, as of late. Letting strangers, mostly, tell me what I am capable of and what I am not. What my limits of talent are. Where my lane is, and how I should best stay in it. We fall back into old patterns. We do what feels most comfortable. What we learned as children. How we learned to cope.

It’s only human nature.

M.

This Explains So Much

Last time I visited Leavenworth, I went through my mom’s photo albums and took pictures of photos that I wanted to remember, either because they sparked a memory, or because they were too absurd to pass up. I’ve been going through these old pictures, which is sometimes scary because I never know what memories will surface from them. Like, will it be a good memory? Will it teach me about who I am? Or will it make me cringe? If a picture from my childhood makes me cringe, I simply jot that feeling down so I remember to talk to my therapist about it. She just loves a good challenge. Anyway, today I looking for a very specific picture for another post I am working on, when I came across this photo instead:

Yeah, I know, there’s a lot going on here. Let me break it down for you. My best guess on the year is 1987. That would make me about six-years-old, my older sister Belinda about sixteen-years-old maybe seventeen, depending on whether this photo was taken before or after July 10th. That’s a crapshoot. It’s obviously summer. I’m not holding any poppers, or snakes, or smoke balls, but that doesn’t mean much. Still could have been near the 4th of July.

My sister is the one standing next to me by the picnic table and the girl on the lounge, I think, is Shane. Shane was one of my sister’s friends, and aside from knowing that Shane drove a truck and had a boyfriend who once showed up at our house in the middle of the night to ask my mom if she would hold $10,000 cash for him for a few days, I don’t remember much about her. I do remember holding the $10,000 cash in my hands when my mom called me into the utility closet, closed the door, and asked me if I wanted to hold $10,000 cash to see what it felt like. I think I may have buried my lead.

My mom has to be the one taking the picture. I know this because suddenly I’m all too aware of what I’m looking at. I’m looking at the one and only time we ever attempted to go camping.

It had to have been Shane’s idea. Had to have been. Or maybe something Shane and my sister cooked up together while they were drinking Boone’s Farm, and chain smoking Marlboro Lights in the Kentucky Fried Chicken parking lot after my sister got off work. Why my mom and I were brought along, I can’t say. Shane was the only one with a working vehicle, unless this was that short time when my sister had that big land yacht with the dead-body trunk she bought off an old guy for $200. Who knows.

But I do remember with clarity now, that there was a tent. And a BBQ grill. We ate hot dogs. We sat in tall, itchy grass. Or probably just I did, maybe on a blanket, the adults had chairs. I remember my mom dousing me with that bottle of OFF on the table there, and her being overly anxious about the trash bag hanging off the table because of bears. I remember that my sister told her we didn’t have bears in Kansas. But she wasn’t convinced. And neither was I.

The orange bottle on the table is either lighter fluid or suntan lotion. Pretty sure that’s a bottle of drinking water on the seat of the table. Or maybe bathing water. Or washing your hands water. Or pouring over your privates after you peed water. It was probably for all of that.

At some point when I asked if I could swim in the lake, everyone yelled “NO!” all at once. I was allowed, however, to walk into the lake for a little bit, up to my ankles maybe? And then later my mother told me about one time when Belinda almost drowned in a lake and OMIGOD! That’s why I was terrified of water and a full-grown adult before I was taught how to swim. This explains so much.

Later, after the tent was set up, the campfire was roaring, and the stars were out and beautiful, I drifted off to sleep in a little pallet in the tent, only to be violently shaken awake about 2:00 am and told that we had to go home. Everyone had had enough of camping and my sister needed her own bed and toilet.

Yep, that was the one time my family attempted camping when I was a child. I’d call it a success.

M.